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Preventing Violence in the Workplace

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There were 417 homicides at workplaces across the country in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Three hundred fifty-four of those were shootings, a 15% increase from the previous year. The most recent shooting took place in San Francisco by a UPS driver who killed three co-workers during a company meeting and later himself.

Incidents can range from indiscriminate killing by an active shooter to incidents of domestic violence that spill over into the workplace. In fact, the BLS’ “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries” for 2015 found that about 43% of women killed in the workplace violence incidents were fatally assaulted by a relative or domestic partner.

As shown by the statistics, the threats posed by workplace violence are real and require a strategy that adequately addresses the issue without creating an unnecessary level of fear among employees. This means creating an environment in which employees are well educated about the threats, know what telltale signs to look for and how to respond appropriately. As one global consulting advisor points out, “It’s paying attention to your surroundings and potential anomalous behavior and knowing what to do with that.”  

Begin by working with an organization’s C-suite and HR department to educate the entire business from the top down about why they should take security seriously and make it a part of the corporate culture. Invest in teaching employees what anomalous behaviors they should take notice of, such as a significant change in routine for one of their coworkers or frequent absences. Of course, there are explanations for these behaviors – an individual might just be having a hard time personally or could be facing financial hardship, marital troubles or any number of other events. But there are indicators to look for that go beyond just these normal human events.

Other suggestions in helping to prevent workplace violence include:

  • Assess and evaluate all employee-reported incidents of violence in determining the need to conduct an investigation. Ineffective responses to employee concerns and complaints will diminish trust and confidence and disrupt workplace efficiencies.
  • Have a clearly defined and credible reporting and monitoring mechanism in place to provide employees reassurances that their reports and complaints are taken seriously. Organizations can reduce their civil liability exposure by engaging the proactive measures that promote accountability. 
  • Hold supervisors and managers responsible and accountable for responding to and handling initial employee complaints.
  • Be sensitive to employee working conditions and the impact of established policy on perceptions of unfairness. Learn to recognize and react to early warning signs of potential problems as a result of personnel changes, impending business decisions and organizational change.
  • Make employee encounters with management a dignified process, especially during the disciplinary and termination steps. Know the impact of heavy-handedness. Giving detailed explanations and allowing room for feedback reduces anxiety and tensions.
  • Consider the value of threat assessment or incident management teams in monitoring and tracking incidents to de-escalate future problems. Create a team that's representative of key members of the organizational leadership team with authority to act.

Workplace violence can occur anywhere – at a municipality, university, nonprofit or a manufacturing plant – with the need for preventative measures critical as part of an organization’s safety and security plans. RPS provides a broad spectrum of industry sectors with insurance and risk management services and can assist you with securing the right program.

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